Spectacle by Rachel Vincent
Book Two of the Menagerie series
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
In this riveting sequel to New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent's acclaimed novel Menagerie, Delilah Marlow will discover that there is no crueler cage than the confines of the human mind…
When their coup of Metzger's Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of "exotic wildlife." Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle's owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price.
But Vandekamp's closely guarded client list isn't the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.
What I Liked:
Let me say two things before I start my commentary: (1) This book is not bad, and I think it will be very successful and a good addition to the series. Please read my full thoughts before jumping to the conclusion of "Alyssa gave the book three stars so it must not be good!". (2) This review might be shorter than usual because my thoughts and feelings on this book are not going to be an accurate reflection of the book's quality. Usually I write my reviews based on technical aspects and categories (character development, plot, world-building, etc.), but I don't think I can construct a fair review based on those items, based on my physical reaction to this book. You'll see what I mean.
Actually, this review is going to be somewhat similar to my review of Menagerie. I thought that book was good, well-written, but I suffered as I was reading it. Like Menagerie, there are cruel and disgusting aspects of this book. Unlike Menagerie, or compared to Menagerie, the cruel and disgusting aspects get worse, in Spectacle.
In essence, Delilah and the Menagerie gang get kidnapped and forced into the Savage Spectacle, which is different from the Menagerie. The Savage Spectacle is cleaner with better conditions... yet, worse conditions. Each cryptid is outfitted with a collar that has needles that go directly into the spine, which can sense neural and hormonal impulses. Every impulse, action, even thought is controlled. Worse - the Spectacle is all about private engagements and satisfying clients with cryptid fetishes. Yep. Reread that again and imagine what I'm talking about.
Vincent did an amazing job with this story - I can't imagine it having been easy to write. Every disgusting act, every choice taken away, every forced action - I hated all of it but I can't deny that everything was well-written and not without its place.
I adored Delilah, and Gallager, and the crew. I hated what was done to them, but I loved seeing their strength and self-preservation win out.
No romance in this book, though there are some... odd things that happen.
In general, it's a sequel that will rip you apart and hurt you, but it is a good book.
What I Did Not Like:
There are so many things wrong with this story, I can't even begin to list them even if I wanted to (but I won't, because of spoilers). Notice I'm talking about the story and not the book (note the distinction). Vincent is shining a light on some gruesome and horrible topics, and I take no issue with that. Sort of.
I think my problem is that I hated everything that happened in this book, and I didn't - couldn't - enjoy the story. There are no trigger warnings, nothing to help someone decide if this is a book for them. Let me just say: there is rape in this book. There is lack of consent. There is sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Wills (willpower) are taken, choices are taken, freedom is taken. A person's body is not their own, physically, mentally, or in a reproductive way. Loss of memory, loss of control, loss of the ability to communicate - the story is filled with these things.
Can you imagine?
I needed warnings. Put yourself in the shoes of a rape survivor, or sexual abuse survivor. This book is disturbing and horrifying - as it is meant to be! - and I could not enjoy it. I do not begrudge anyone their high rating or praise of this book, but I couldn't enjoy this story. I recognize that it is not the book itself that should be put down - but I'm being honest here: I hated the story.
Three stars, because it's not the book, it's the actions and behaviors that exist in this world and should not be ignored. But, three stars, because I could not stomach this story. Call me whatever name you want, but I couldn't do it. Yes, I finished the book. Yes, I know, all of the things in this book exist (in some way) in real life.
In Menagerie, I sort of got used to the "disturbing" aspects of the story. In Spectacle? Everything was one hundred times worse. Menagerie seemed just barely disturbing compared to Spectacle. So there was no way for me to "get used to anything", to become desensitized.
Would I Recommend It:
I do not recommend Spectacle. I do not recommend Menagerie. These are not easy books to read, and honestly they get worse and worse in terms of graphic content. Worse NOT in terms of the quality of the storytelling, but worse in terms of what the characters have to experience and face. Call me a snowflake, call me fragile, I don't care - these books are not for everyone. Definitely (unfortunately) not for me. I thought I could handle it with Menagerie, but clearly I was wrong with Spectacle. I can't finish this series. I can't think about how bad book three will be.
Don't take my word for it though, if you've already read Menagerie and you're really interested in this book. But if you haven't read Menagerie, think about what you'll be reading before you start the book. Message or email me with questions, if you want. Although I have to say, I'm going to be trying really hard to forget what I read, in both books.
3 stars. I honestly don't know how to rate and review this book, because it's me and my thoughts/opinions that I'm writing about, and not necessary technical aspects (writing, world-building, character development, etc.). I rarely write this type of review (based on my thoughts/opinions alone), but I'm so shaken and unsettled, and I really don't know how to write this review any other way. Hopefully I've conveyed something useful to any reader of this reviewer. I'm not trying to tear down the author or this book - but I am trying to warn any reader who, like me, shouldn't be reading this book but don't know that they shouldn't be, because they don't know enough information about the book (see above, about warnings).
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